Monthly Archives: November 2013

Weekly MS Staff Memo – November 17, 2013

Great Things I Noticed This Week:

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Upcoming Events

*Test scores have arrived and will be mailed home to families this week.  I will be devoting Monday to going over scores and analyzing results with teachers.  Look for a sign-up genius to come soon….  Please make arrangements amongst your team to cover other teachers so they can step away for half an hour to meet with me.  Your help and flexibility are greatly appreciated.

Monday, November 18th
11:15-12:15 – No Team Meetings Today; Teacher Appreciation Luncheon in Elementary Gym
6:00-8:00 – MS Drama One Acts (Black Box)

Wednesday, November 20th
11:30-12:15 – Science Vertical Team Meeting
3:30-4:30 – No Staff Meeting Today – Dental Insurance Info Session at HS in lieu of staff meeting

Thursday, November 21st
Beth Knight – Teacher Leader for the day

Friday, November 22nd
7th Grade Africa Day

Tuesday, November 26th – Half Day- Dismissal is at 11:30
Earlier in the year, several teachers had inquired about making this an “all advisory” day.  Due to several staff absences, we decided this would not be the best arrangement.  Now the art department has requested to run some rehearsals on this day (both Dance and Band), so our plan is to host kids in core classes for review activities while arts teachers pull kids for rehearsals.  Sara is currently working on a schedule, so we will get that out to you as soon as possible.  In the meantime, core teachers can plan on providing some review activities and/or games in their classrooms on this day, but please keep in mind that many of our students will be in dance rehearsals for most of the day.  Thank you so much for your flexibility!

Looking Ahead….
12/2 – Spelling Bee 9-2
12/2 – MS Parent Workshop with Juli & Dana – 9:00a.m. – Getting Ahead in Class and Staying There
12/3 – NO Parent Advisory – resumes in January
12/4 – K-8 Staff Meeting
12/5 – 7/8 Band Concert – 9:30 a.m.
12/5-12/7 – Christmas in Davidson
12/9 – Final School Spelling Bee
12/11 – Never Work Harder Than Your Students Book Talk – 3:30-4:30 – Chpt 3 & 4
12/11 – Mockingjay Understudy Performance – 5:30-8:30p.m.
12/12 – Mockingjay Dress Rehearsals (during school day)….Schedule coming soon….
12/12 – HS Arts Night and New Wing Ribbon Cutting – 5:00-9:00p.m.
12/13 – Rube Goldberg Convention (7th Grade) – 12:00-3:00p.m.
12/14 – Mockingjay Performances at Lake Norman High School
12/18 – 1/2 day
12/19-1/1 – Winter Break!!!
1/2 – Classes Resume
1/3 – HS Orientation Meeting for 8th Grade Students and Parents with student panel discussion that afternoon


If you are organizing an event that will require school funds, please take the following into consideration.  Invoices must be submitted to Juli for approval a full week in advance to actually needing the payment.  This allows Debbie Beam (our school accountant) enough time to cut the check.  We cannot approve expenses without invoices.  Thanks for your help with this.

Teachers, if you ever pull a student out of a class, please make sure to tell the teacher of the class so we can avoid unnecessary hunts and scares.  There is no scarier feeling on earth than to think you have lost a child in your care, so let’s be sure to keep each other informed.  Thanks!

Professional Development Corner

A Few More Thoughts from Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn Jackson
The first principle of great teaching is “Start Where Your Students Are.”  Obviously you cannot do this unless you know your students – really know your students. Robyn likens this practice to determining the different forms of “currency” we use in our classrooms.  She states:

“We all have preferred forms of currency.  Suppose you advertise that your house is for sale and I come take a look.  I like what I see and declare that I want to buy our house.  ‘Great,’ you say as you take out the paperwork and prepare to draw up a contract.  Meanwhile, I dig into my pocket, pull out a few shiny beads, some seashells, and a couple of wood carvings, place them on the table, and ask for the keys.  How would you react?”

I think this is a powerful analogy as we, as educators, are often guilty of doing the exact same thing to our students.  Often there is a disconnection between the currency we value and the currency our students are spending.  This disconnect is where many classroom problems begin.  Ultimately, students will not spend their own currencies if they do not believe what they will get in exchange is valuable, so it is imperative that we go out of our way to help students understand the benefit in acquiring our “capital.”

Robyn suggests using the following 8 non-cognitive variables (developed by Dr. William Sedlacek) as a way to see and value students’ currencies that may go unrecognized in the classroom (pg. 35).  Through his research, Dr. Sedlacek determined 8 non-cognitive skills and characteristics that he argued are more predictive of academic success than the traditional measures of intelligence:
Positive self-concept – the confidence that leads to the determination to succeed
Realistic self-appraisal – the ability to accurately assess your own strengths and weaknesses and to use this assessment to further your own development
Successful navigation of the system – knowing how to access resources rand how to use the system to help you achieve your goals
Preference for long-term goals – knowing how to set and achieve long-term goals, delay gratification, and persevere in spite of obstacles
Availability of a strong support person – finding someone to confer advice, particularly in times of crisis
Leadership experience – having the ability to organize and influence others
Community involvement – being involved in a community
Knowledge acquired in and about a field – having the explicit and implicit knowledge of a particular field of study
Robyn suggests that teachers use these 8 variables as a way of recognizing the array of strengths that students bring with them to the classroom.

Here are Robyn’s tips on Classroom Currencies (pg. 53)
1.  Examine your own currencies.  Look to see which currencies you value in the classroom.
2.  Pay attention to your students to discover which currencies they value and what currencies they are spending.
3.  Look for any disconnect between the currencies you are accepting in the classroom and those the students are spending.  Also look for ways that you may be spending currencies that students do not value.
4.  If the disconnection is because the students do not have a classroom currency, help students use the currency they have to acquire classroom currency by showing them how their currencies are valuable, helping them acquire additional currencies,and learning how to code switch.

In our book study discussion, we also brought up a similar theory widely publicized by Gary Chapman – The Five Love Languages (words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch).

Once again, this boils back down to the idea of currency…what our students value and what we are spending.  Do they match?  If not, what can we do differently to repair the disconnect?

Thoughts to Ponder:



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Weekly Staff Memo – Week of November 11, 2013

veterans-day-courageDear Staff,

Due to the Veteran’s Day Holiday, this will be an abbreviated version of the Weekly Staff Memo.  I hope everyone has had a wonderful weekend!  Please make sure that all LASS teachers acknowledge Veteran’s Day and it’s significance at some point in your classes this week.  We want to be sure that students are reminded of the many blessings of living in a free country and pay respects to those who make it possible.  Thank you!

Upcoming Dates/Events

Wednesday, November 13th
11:30-12:15 – Math Vertical Team Meeting
3:40-4:30 – Ed Leadership Teacher Discussion
Thursday, November 14th
Site visit from CMS officials
Friday, November 15th
Greek Day – 6th Grade
9:00- Veteran’s Day Celebration – led by 8th Grade Practicum
Other Dates to Note….
Monday, November 18th – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon – Drama One Acts beginning at 6:00
Wednesday, November 20th – Optional Dental Insurance Info Session at High School at 3:30 (in lieu of staff meeting)
Friday, November 22nd – Africa Day – 7th Grade
Tuesday, November 26th – 1/2 day – Thanksgiving Break – classes resume on Monday, December 2nd
*Erik D’Esterre is playing the role of Marius in Les Miserables at CPCC.  Performances begin this week!  I’m sure it will be a terrific show, so get out and support Erik (and live theater) if possible! 


When I saw this story, I completely thought of our wonderful kids.  Grab a tissue and enjoy. 🙂

This Middle School Football Team Went Behind Their Coaches’ Backs To Do Something Incredible

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Weekly Staff Memo – November 2, 2013

Great Things I Noticed This Week

I am still on a great high after the Fresh Take Conference last weekend.  Nothing feeds my soul more than excellent Professional Development.  As I listened to colleagues present, discuss, debate, share stories, laugh together, cry together….I was reminded of the tremendous collective power we hold as educators.  It is such a blessing to be called to fulfill our life’s purpose in the role of teacher, and I am grateful for this opportunity every single day.

I was absolutely blown away by the 8th Grade Practicum Sharing on Friday.  Our kids are so creative and expressive, and it’s all because of the incredible learning environments each of you have created in your own classrooms.  Once again, I stand in awe of our community and feel tremendous gratitude for what we have created here at CSD.

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Upcoming Events

Monday, November 4th
9:00-10:00 – Middle School Parent Workshop – Session 2 – Building Strong Relationships with Teacher and Understanding Adolescence – MS Music Room

11:15-12:15 – 6th Grade Team Meeting with Juli and Dana

7:30-8:30 – Parent Advisory Meeting at High School

Wednesday, November 6th
9:30-11:00 – K-8 Lottery Open House

11:30-12:15 – LASS Vertical Team Meeting in Juli’s office

3:30-until finished…. MS Staff Meeting – EC Mods in the Classroom with Kristin Ratnofsky

Thursday, November 7th
Juli and Dana at NCSCA conference
Sara Keys is Teacher Leader

Looking Ahead…
November 8th – New Round of Practicum (8th Grade)
November 11th – No School – Veteran’s Day Holiday
November 15th – Greek Day (6th Grade)
November 18th – Teacher Appreciation Luncheon
November 18th – Drama One Acts – 6:30p.m.
November 20th – Cyber Safety Night – 7:00p.m.
November 22nd – Africa Day (7th Grade)
November 26th – Early Dismissal – *This day will be spent in Advisories.  More info to come soon!
November 27-December 1 – Thanksgiving Break


Please make sure to adhere to all recess schedules as closely as possible.  As you know, space is our greatest challenge.  Sometimes space issues also create safety concerns.  Therefore, we (Juli, Dana, and teacher leaders) have put a lot of time and thought into “who is where and when,” so we ask that everyone stick to these times/locations as any impromptu changes may create circumstances beyond your immediate awareness.  Thank you for understanding and for being positive and flexible.  We truly appreciate it more than you know!

Heads Up… A few teachers have inquired about having an “all Advisory” day on the half-day before Thanksgiving.  We are currently working on plans for that day, so if you have any ideas/comments/feedback/suggestions, feel free to add them by clicking here.

Professional Development Corner

This year all MS teachers were invited to participate in a year-long study on Robyn Jackson’s book, Never Work Harder Than Your Students & Other Principles of Great Teaching.  Since my last blog post publication, our book club met and discussed the first few chapters.  In upcoming posts, I will summarize highlights of the book and will include them in this blog so that others might benefit from them as well.

In her prologue, Robyn refers to “the gift.”  She states, “If you asked me to define ‘the gift’ back then, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.  I just knew it when I saw it.”  She goes on to explain, “But after years of working with teachers and school leaders, I now know that ‘the gift’ is not some mysterious birthright.  In fact, it’s not really a gift at all.  Being a master teacher is the result of a critical understanding of the principles of good teaching.  It’s a mindset that anyone can learn and by learning this mindset, you too can become a master teacher.”  (pg. xi)

So she asks – What is the Master Teacher Mindset? ~a few highlights….
The master teacher mindset means knowing that having all the answers isn’t nearly as important as knowing what questions to ask.
Master teachers spend more time thinking about why the problem is occurring than they do trying to find solutions.
The master teacher mindset means being willing to own your own contribution to the problem but at the same time, being reluctant to cast blame on others because you know that casting blame is not nearly as useful as looking for causes.
Questions to Ponder:
The introduction makes the following statement: Any teacher can become a master teacher with the right kind of practice. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
What do you believe is a “master teacher?” How do teachers become master teachers?

Inspiration/To Think About….

4-Agreements2-1024x688Don’t take anything personally.  For me, this seems to be the most challenging agreement.  I think it is because we care so deeply that we get wrapped up in the situation and let things become about us without even realizing it.  Ruiz calls this “personal importance.”  He says this is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.”  I’m not sure about you, but when I first entertained this idea, it was a huge AHA moment for me!  Remembering to view things from this perspective has made an immense difference in my ability to relate to others.  It has also made an immense difference in my overall happiness as it has cut a lot of needless suffering out of my life.  The trick lies in remaining aware of this cycle and calling attention to it within ourselves when we see it present.  If you think about it, this can be extremely freeing.  With this mindset, you are not responsible for the actions of others – only the actions of yourself – because nothing others do is because of you.  It’s because of their own unique reality and set of circumstances.  As I type this, I think about how often I give this message to kids who visit my office.  Very often, they want to deflect from themselves and bring others into the problem.  We always go back to… The only person you can control at any moment is yourself.  So in this regard, shifting our perception can be very liberating.  As we go into this next week, let’s try to remember that nothing others do is because of us.  As we call attention to our own bouts of “personal importance,” I am hopeful that a lot of our stress and pain will simply begin to lift away, leaving us with much less personal suffering and much more happiness and fulfillment.  Go ahead.  Give it try.

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